Now that we are well into the new year, it gives us an opportunity to look back at 2016 and reflect on the achievements and challenges faced across the retail industry in the last 12 months.
It is no secret that the industry is undergoing a digital revolution. The role that our shops play in our customers’ lives is being transformed and it is vital that we as retailers continue to develop and adapt in order to keep giving our purchasers what they want when they shop with us.
Our belief is that today, the classic department store has become about much more than just completing a transaction.
It is a destination in its own right - somewhere that our customers can while away the hours, or even the whole day, and where they have access to a wide range of services that would have necessitated visits to several different locations only a few years ago.
This change in customer shopping is reflected in the two new department stores that we opened last year - Leeds and Chelmsford. Our regional flagship in Leeds - one of our biggest shops outside London - is now our most experiential and service-led shop to date, epitomising this new role that our shops are playing for our customers.
The department store is a destination in its own right
Shoppers at John Lewis Leeds can not only buy their duvets, white china and tights in the same way that shoppers have done with us for 152 years, but they can also visit the instore beauty spa, consult with a personal shopper or even book their next holiday.
We are diversifying the purpose of our stores and reinventing the way our customers engage with our bricks and mortar shops in this digital age.
Chelmsford, while smaller in size than its Yorkshire counterpart, is home to other exciting concepts, including a new bar/café concept from Benugo, which allows customers to enjoy a glass of prosecco straight from a tap or a cup of Benugo’s signature coffee while they shop, as well as the largest interactive beauty hall of all John Lewis’ small full-line department stores.
Seamless customer experience
Later this year, we will open our 49th department store, in Oxford. The opening of this shop in a new retail and leisure destination in the heart of the city shows that, in spite of the digital revolution, shops are still central to our business.
It is how we manage and develop the synergy between our shops and our online business that is becoming increasingly important. Working to create a seamless experience for our customers across shops and online is key.
We all know that 2017 presents a challenging year for the retail industry. With a combination of cost pressures looking set to challenge many businesses, we are likely to see a change in the direction and prioritisation of capital investment across the industry.
However, with challenge comes opportunity, and those who develop and adapt to these significant changes - those who can create that seamless offering - could certainly enjoy a positive future.